A Stillness at Appomatox

 

Friday was the 156th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Grant and his Army of the Potomac, at Appomattox Courthouse, VA. I consider this the effective end of the Civil War, though some fighting continued, and Confederate leaders in other locations, further south and west, surrendered at different times over the next couple of months.

The title of this post is from Bruce Catton’s excellent book on the conclusion of the war.

The National Park Service has a brief description of the surrender, and Grant’s final pursuit of Lee and his army in the preceding few days, here.

God bless America.

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  1. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member
    9thDistrictNeighbor
    @9thDistrictNeighbor

    • #1
  2. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    I was able to tour the Appomatox historical site a few years ago.  They did an excellent job recreating the essence of the feel of the day, the mutual respect, the honor, the gentlemanly approach.  In an aside, I wonder if it the same format today.  My perspective is the differences I saw touring Jefferson’s Montecello 10+ years ago and 18 months ago.  The tenor of that tour changed from brilliant and compassionate Jefferson to slave holder with tainted history. 

    • #2
  3. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    My favorite Civil War author is Shelby Foote, but a close second is Bruce Catton, and I whole heartedly agree with the recommendation of A Stillness At Appomattox. 

    My favorite bookshelf: 

    • #3
  4. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Vince Guerra (View Comment):

    My favorite Civil War author is Shelby Foote, but a close second is Bruce Catton, and I whole heartedly agree with the recommendation of A Stillness At Appomattox.

    My favorite bookshelf:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation of Foote, as well.  They are both outstanding.

    • #4
  5. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    The surrender was signed in the parlor of Wilbur McLean.

    He would state , “The war started in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.

    McLean was a merchant who lived on a farm with his family near Manassas Junction in northern Virginia. His farm just happened to sit at the location of the Civil War’s first major clash between Union and Confederate forces: First Bull Run, aka First Manassas. During the preliminaries to the battle McLean’s house was shelled by Union artillery after being taken over by Confederate forces under Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard. (That structure is no longer there.) After the battle McLean, who was a Confederate sympathizer and supplier of sugar to the South, moved his family further into the heart of the state, to a small south-central Virginia town and county seat called Appomattox.

    McLean may have thought he was getting away from the war’s front lines, but those front lines were to catch up with him again. In April 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s forces, exhausted and starving after having being chased constantly by the Union since the fall of Richmond, ground to a halt nearby. After one more battle Lee finally concluded he had no choice left but to surrender his army. Appomattox was chosen as the location to conclude surrender negotiations, and McLean’s home was chosen as a suitable spot for the signing of the surrender documents between Lee and Union commander Ulysses S. Grant.

     

    • #5
  6. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy) Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Democracy)
    @GumbyMark

    Appomattox is a little off the beaten path but well worth the visit. 

    • #6
  7. Blondie Thatcher
    Blondie
    @Blondie

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Appomattox is a little off the beaten path but well worth the visit.

    And can always be paired with a trip to the National D-Day Memorial. They are less than an hour apart. 

    • #7
  8. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Vince Guerra (View Comment):

    My favorite Civil War author is Shelby Foote, but a close second is Bruce Catton, and I whole heartedly agree with the recommendation of A Stillness At Appomattox.

    My favorite bookshelf:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation of Foote, as well. They are both outstanding.

    It’s unfortunate that Catton died before Ken Burns could do the Civil War documentary. It would have been great to see Catton and Foote duke it out.

    • #8
  9. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    I think Generals Sherman and Johnson would disagree with this, but anyway. 

    The Bennett Place in Durham, NC is where Johnson surrendered to Sherman a couple of weeks later. 

    What had happened in the meantime? Lincoln was assassinated. That changed everything.

    • #9
  10. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Vince Guerra (View Comment):

    My favorite Civil War author is Shelby Foote, but a close second is Bruce Catton, and I whole heartedly agree with the recommendation of A Stillness At Appomattox.

    My favorite bookshelf:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation of Foote, as well. They are both outstanding.

    It’s unfortunate that Catton died before Ken Burns could do the Civil War documentary. It would have been great to see Catton and Foote duke it out.

    Yes, I love them both for being so different. For instance I learned so much more about the complexity of Ft. Sumter, or Burnside’s Crater fiasco by reading Catton, and so much more about the details of the Southern geography and fighting in it by reading Foote.  

    • #10
  11. Michael S. Malone Contributor
    Michael S. Malone
    @MichaelSMalone

     

    I did two interview episodes with Shelby Foote back on my old PBS show.  They are still occasionally bolted to Burns’ series on local stations.  Terrific gentleman:  small, impeccable, courtly and with that great Southern voice.  We had a great time and corresponded for several years afterwards. He and the great Walker Percy grew up together, and, with their wives, vacationed together into old age.  I loved getting letters from him:  written with a pen and inkwell in a beautiful style (only Tom Wolfe, a fellow Southerner, had better penmanship.

    My only regret is that after the interview, Shelby suggested we all go out for best barbecue in Memphis.  I was ready to go, but got overruled by my crew, who wanted to see Graceland before we caught the flight home.  Just thinking about it now kills me . . .

     

    • #11
  12. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Appomattox is a little off the beaten path but well worth the visit.

    Virginia has (or had) a very well done driving tour of Civil War sites.  We live close enough that we could do it in multiple trips.

    The tour ends at Appomatox and really gives you the sense of how Grant was hounding Lee’s footsteps towards the end of the war.

    For me, the most moving sight was at Appomatox where they had the pencil that was used for the final signing.  So much history tied up in such a mundane object.

    • #12
  13. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    Michael S. Malone (View Comment):

     

    I did two interview episodes with Shelby Foote back on my old PBS show. They are still occasionally bolted to Burns’ series on local stations. Terrific gentleman: small, impeccable, courtly and with that great Southern voice. We had a great time and corresponded for several years afterwards. He and the great Walker Percy grew up together, and, with their wives, vacationed together into old age. I loved getting letters from him: written with a pen and inkwell in a beautiful style (only Tom Wolfe, a fellow Southerner, had better penmanship.

    My only regret is that after the interview, Shelby suggested we all go out for best barbecue in Memphis. I was ready to go, but got overruled by my crew, who wanted to see Graceland before we caught the flight home. Just thinking about it now kills me . . .

     

    Barbecue with Shelby Foote would be on my top ten wish lists. 

    • #13
  14. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Kozak (View Comment):

    The surrender was signed in the parlor of Wilbur McLean.

    He would state , “The war started in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.

    Grandad Skinner’s grandad Skinner served in the 2nd Virginia Infantry at First Manassas and after his first enlistment ended, with the 6th Virginia Cavalry until Lee left to offer his surrender. Grandad Skinner’s uncle was an educated man and a college professor. He wrote down some of his recollections of his boyhood in northern Virginia and what he remembered of his father’s stories. The cavalry covered the retreat from Petersburg to Appomatox, mounted on starving horses, keeping Sheridan’s cavalry at bay and urging starving infantrymen to keep moving. When it became known that Lee intended to surrender, Lee’s nephew Fitzhugh Lee, in command of the Calvary, released his men to go home, if they wished. Fitz Lee told his men that he didn’t know if they would be able to keep their mounts after the surrender, and since for most of this men their horses were personal property, it might be better to just slip away. Grandad took the opportunity, as he would need horsepower for the upcoming spring planting.

    • #14
  15. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Nohaaj (View Comment):

    I was able to tour the Appomatox historical site a few years ago. They did an excellent job recreating the essence of the feel of the day, the mutual respect, the honor, the gentlemanly approach. In an aside, I wonder if it the same format today. My perspective is the differences I saw touring Jefferson’s Montecello 10+ years ago and 18 months ago. The tenor of that tour changed from brilliant and compassionate Jefferson to slave holder with tainted history.

    We visited Appomattox almost 40 years ago, as well as other places such as Jefferson’s Monticello, while visiting friends who had moved from Michigan to Lynchburg. (They told us how they coped with southern politeness, and how Jerry Falwell had two accents and manners of speaking: one for national television, and one for the locals.) I think it was at Appomattox, maybe one of our last historical stops, where our 10-year-old daughter turned to us during a pause in the tour and asked, not in a whisper, “Why is everything about the south?” 

    It was an enjoyable visit, but we haven’t been back to that part of Virginia. Our friends didn’t stay there too many years, but after being out of touch for many years we’re back in touch again and visit each other now and then. The last time was pre-covid. 

    Our only other foray into southern battlefields was in the early spring of 2006, when I did a ride to some War of 1812 battlefields in Alabama.

    • #15
  16. dukenaltum Coolidge
    dukenaltum
    @dukenaltum

    If only we had the grace and magnanimity of the men of April 9,1865 who only hours before were working assiduously to kill each other but ended it.

    Cheap virtue is always cruel and excessive when judgement is exacted upon the weak and the dead.

    Slavery, a near universal and ancient blight, only became a moral cause, when Christendom saw it as a violation of natural law and unjust.

    The virtuous Modern is again comfortable with using products made by Slaves in far off lands.

    • #16